SISTER SYN

Home on leave from the Army in 1969 Mason visited Ed Gregory at Gregory’s Marine on Motor Boat Lane, adjacent to Waterworks Park on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.  On the wall above Ed’s desk, mounted on a board, was 18 inches, cut off the bow or “Nose “ of MY SWEETIE the legendary Hacker designed Gold Cup racer. When Ed learned of Mason’s interest in the early race boats, he sent Mason to local River Rat Ron Promo who had dragged a group of old Horace Dodge racing boats out of the Dodge Estate.  Far out of town on the corner of 23 Mile and Schoenherr Roads, Ron Promo showed Mason his group of old boats which he had for sale; Racing  Speedboats, Hydroplanes and Military target Boats.  Promo was hawking an enormous 38 foot single step race hydroplane named LOTUS asking $1,000 for her, while the sleek, low 36 foot SISTER SYN was only $200.  Mason was salivating for the ‘SYN and not wishing to show his hand immediately, feigned “Why so much for LOTUS while SISTER SYN is only $200?” The answer became clear… LOTUS could more easily be converted to a roomy cabin cruiser.

Quickly Mason purchased and loaded SISTER SYN onto Erv Unger’s transport trailer and had her unloaded into a  cattle barn on the Sterling Wickwire  Farm South of Jackson Michigan. He then returned to active duty in the Army, and left for Korea.  From his military station in remote Korea near the DMZ, Mason began researching  SISTER SYN, ordering 1927 photos from the Morris Rosenfeld studios, in NYC. Mason got a letter from “wild” Bill Horn,  SISTER SYN’S original driver and lifelong friend of Horace Dodge. Later, through Horn, Mason met a flock of Horace Dodge’s surviving pals; Florence Sissman, Charlie Grafflin,  Paul Miller, Al McKenzie and Walter Kade.

In the passage of time, Mason learned that SISTER SYN had been powered with a Packard Sweepstakes 1242 cubic inch V12 racing engine.  He began a search for this engine, but very soon gave up his search because only a handful were built and they were cannibalized for parts to keep the Packard Gold Cup racing engines running for the Gold Cup racers.  However, his search did turn up a very rare cache of Curtiss Conqueror V12 racing engines used in Navy racing planes in the famous Schneider Trophy Cup races. Mason found a pair of marine converted Conquerors lying neglected at the Velez Boat Yard in Port Henry New York.   Lou Velez offered to sell Mark the engines for $500.  For another $1,000, there were two more aircraft Conquerors “new” in crates. Mason learned that Velez was famous for having never sold ANYTHING. So Mark quickly organized the needed cash and went back to Port Henry, ready to complete the transaction.  A  sequence of excuses followed, delaying the loading of the engines.  Mason camped out at Velez’s day after day, from opening until the lights were shut off at night, waiting…. Finally the excuses ran out and Velez loaded the motors into Mason’s truck. That was the summer of 1972 and the engines were in deplorable condition. Mason sold SISTER SYN to Bill Dale and bought her back a few years later. Then, Joe Fleming (a founder of ACBS) bought her and actually got her running on Lake George in 1977 and again in Detroit in 1979. She was then purchased by Doug Bindrim, who spent the next 20 years rebuilding the engine to a level of excellence rarely seen in the world today. Now, she is frequently seen on Lake Winnipesaukee and is a magical ghost from the past for all who see her.